Check out tips and useful information about the best destinations in the Riviera Maya, Mexico

THE Gisela Carvalho traveled to Quintana Roo, Mexico, a region famous for its paradisiacal natural attractions, with typical characteristics of the Caribbean landscapes: beaches with crystal clear waters, magnificent islands and charming hotels, which give a luxurious boost to the stays of tourists visiting the destination.

Passing through three enchanting places – Playa del Carmen, Bacalar and tulum, check out these tips from Gisela Carvalho, to discover the best in the region of Riviera Maya.

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Riviera Maya: Playa del Carmen

where to stay

We started our trip to Mexico through the delightful little town of Playa del Carmen, located 1 hour from Cancun. We rented a car at Cancún airport and from there we continued driving on a very quiet and signposted road. We choose the Mahekal Beach Resort, a hotel on the sand, by the sea, immersed in nature and completely open to the sky. Despite being large (almost 200 bungalows), it has a boutique hotel feel, a very intimate atmosphere and an environment rich in charming details. On my bedroom door, a ceramic plaque with my last name (all hand-painted by an artist from the hotel) was a souvenir I could take home. The infinity pool by the sea (accompanied by a delicious jacuzzi), the impeccable service, the food of the gods and the privileged location (2 minutes from 5th Avenue - Playa's main street) made the right choice for this little piece of paradise. In our room, a huge balcony facing the sea with a delicious and providential outdoor shower in the heat of the Mexican summer.

Mahekal Beach Resort. Photo: Gisela Carvalho

Mahekal Beach Resort. Photo: Gisela Carvalho

Things to do in Playa del Carmen

– Chichen Itza

On the first day we went to visit Chichén Itzá, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Driving from Playa it took us 2 hours to get there (prepare your pocket for the tolls, if you're driving) and we spent about 1h30 walking around the ruins (the heat of 40°C didn't allow us to stay longer than that. Rs.). Definitely worth the visit, the place is impressive! But if you are going in the summer, try to arrive early to escape the scorching sun.

Chichen Itza. Photo: Gisela Carvalho

– 5th Avenue

At night we went out on foot to visit the main street and I was surprised by its size (about 2 km from the tourist area) and by the amount of restaurants and shops, including the big brands. We took the opportunity to exchange money at one of the numerous exchange offices, buy souvenirs, and chose to have dinner at La Carbonería (in a small street across 5th Avenue) and we loved it.

– Cozumel and Isla Mujeres

The next day we had scheduled a dive in Cozumel, but we ended up giving up and decided to spend the day enjoying the hotel. Diving will be next, as well as a visit to Isla Mujeres, two great places to visit on a day trip from Playa.

Riviera Maya: Bacalar

From Playa del Carmen we went to Puerto Aventuras (25 minutes by car) where we stayed for 1 night, and from there we left for Bacalar (3 hours by car), the pearl of the trip! I had never heard of this city until we decided to take Belize out of our itinerary (because of the distance we would have to face to get there) and then I started a search for a new place to visit. Behold, I saw some pictures of Bacalar on Instagram, it was love at first sight! It was decided, that's where we were going.

Bacalar. Photo: Gisela Carvalho

Bacalar. Photo: Gisela Carvalho

where to stay

I researched and chose a hotel “pé na lago”, the Bakal House, so that we could make the most of that turquoise lagoon (with fresh and warm water). We stayed in a bungalow facing the water, rustic but with all the necessary comforts. In addition to the privileged location, Casa Bakal even provided more than we needed: swimming pool, a deck with swings over the lagoon, sailboat, SUP, kayak and even motorized boards with which we took a dip in a cenote near the hotel. We enjoyed every minute in this paradise!

*Accommodation in a hotel on the edge of the lagoon makes all the difference in Bacalar, as the “shore” is taken over by hotels (and at these points only guests have access) and there are only 2 public accesses to the lagoon, which are always very crowded .

Bakal House. Photo: Gisela Carvalho

Bakal House. Photo: Gisela Carvalho

Things to do in Bacalar

– Sailing tour on the Laguna de los Siete Colores

This is the main tour of the city. We hired a private sailboat with Mexplora (agency located inside Casa Bakal) and we sailed for 3h30 on the lagoon, passing by known points such as the Canal de Los Piratas (a must!) and other remote and deserted points, where our sailor stopped and prepared a delicious snack with fresh fruits, nuts. The color of the water is unbelievable so beautiful, and the desire is to stay there all day relaxing, between dives and clicks.

Laguna de los Siete Colores. Photo: Gisela Carvalho

Where to eat

At night we went out for a walk in the center, where there are several shops, restaurants and grocery stores, and to my surprise it was crowded (we almost couldn't park the car). On the recommendation of the hotel staff, we dined at the cozy and delicious Nixtamal, rated as the best in town.

Nixtamal Restaurant. Photo: Gisela Carvalho

Riviera Maya: Tulum

The next morning, with a sinking heart and a taste of wanting more, we left Bacalar. After 2h30 on the road, we arrived at the very charming Tulum, my favorite city in the Riviera Maya.

where to stay

We chose the newly opened Alea Tulum, which opened its doors in December 2018. Foot in the sand, architecture beyond modern, delicious pool and jacuzzi and all 18 rooms facing the sea. The ground floor suites, which we stayed in for the last 2 days, are swim-up suites (which open directly onto the pool), quite a stewardship! Breakfast is à la carte, with everything freshly prepared, a wonder!

Hotel Alea Tulum. Photo: Gisela Carvalho

Hotel Alea Tulum. Photo: Gisela Carvalho

Things to do in Tulum

– Cenote dos Ojos

With the beaches covered by seaweed, we took the opportunity to explore the countless cenotes of Tulum. In 2016 I met 3 of them and this time another 3. We started with dos Ojos, two cavities of crystal clear water interconnected at the bottom (it is possible to go scuba diving), beautiful! Price: 350 pesos per person (about 80 reais).

Cenote dos Ojos. Photo: Gisela Carvalho

– Cenote Calavera

The next day we visited Calavera, a cenote with a very small opening, which is why it is so different from the others, and which impresses with its huge interior and the number of caves it has (we could see it on the map from the outside). The fact that it is not as well known as the other larger ones makes the value for access lower (150 pesos per person, about 35 reais).

– Grand Cenote

Perhaps the most beautiful of the ones I've seen (and also the most crowded). On one side a shallow part with transparent water, on the other a deep cave with very blue water and huge stalactites that went to the bottom, not to mention the small turtles that swam freely there. It is worth taking a snorkel (or renting it) to better appreciate all the details. Price: 200 pesos per person (about 45 reais).

Grand Cenote. Photo: Gisela Carvalho

*The cenotes have very cold water (in a heat of 40°C we even thank you. Rs.), and in most of them you will find an infinity of bats on the ceiling, but that do not pose any risk to visitors. Many have a vest, mask and snorkel for rent.

– Mouth Paila

Tulum's main street, beyond charming, where the main hotels and restaurants are, and some cool shops. It's worth having lunch and then walking out for a walk and having an ice cream. Prices there are high, but worth a visit.

– Tulum Ruins

On the first day, we took the opportunity to visit the famous ruins of Tulum, which I had already visited in 2016 but my husband had not yet. I was sad to see the sea in front of the ruins taken over by algae, a phenomenon that has been affecting the entire Riviera Maya for some years, due to the warming of the oceans. In addition to being part of the postcard of the ruins, that was one of the most beautiful beaches I had ever seen in my life, a pity to find it that way.

Where to eat

We had lunch at Casa Banana and loved the chic-relaxed atmosphere and the tasty, well-served food. At night we had dinner at Gitano and once again we were enchanted by the atmosphere, with candlelight, good music and a very cozy atmosphere (despite the heat that was at 10 pm). On our last night we chose to have dinner at Kin Toh, a restaurant at the famous Azulik hotel. For this, we made a reservation before leaving Brazil, as it is very popular. The environment is in fact what the photos show (or even more), to fill your eyes! Very well decorated, amidst a lot of green and rich in details. The service is first rate (we had 2 waiters just for our table) and the food is the same, but served in portions that leave a lot to be desired for the exorbitant price they charge. It was by far one of the most expensive restaurants I've ever been to and we left there knowing that we would soon be hungry again, too bad. We scheduled dinner for 18:30, with the idea of enjoying the sunset and enjoying the beginning of the night there, but the truth is that it was unbearable heat that prevented us from staying longer after dinner, we paid the bill and ran out. for air conditioning. LOL.

Kin Toh Restaurant. Photo: Gisela Carvalho

How to get to the Riviera Maya

The nearest airport is Cancun. From there, practically the entire Riviera Maya and surroundings can be traversed in a single straight line.

When to go to Riviera Maya

The best time to visit the Riviera Maya is in mid-season, to avoid the almost unbearable heat of summer and the high season of “winter”: from March to May and from September to November (despite being hurricane season, it is very unlikely happen).

Getting around in the Riviera Maya

Renting a car is undoubtedly the best option, the roads are in excellent condition and well signposted. In addition, there is no Uber and taxis are very expensive (they do not use a meter and charge a fixed price).


Mexican peso. Hotels usually accept dollars, but most restaurants and tours only accept pesos.

Read too:

» Places to visit in Cancun
» 40 amazing destinations to visit in the Caribbean
» Luxury resort in Cancun: check out photos of the TRS Coral Hotel
» Costa Mujeres, the zen side of Cancun

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